A Haunting in Venice Puts a Spooky Spin on Your Typical Murder Mystery

I have to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of murder mysteries, so when I first heard about A Haunting in Venice, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Sure, the spooky name sounded kind of interesting, but I didn’t think it would be my kind of movie. However, that immediately changed when the film dropped its first trailer. It looked like this movie was going to feature a genuinely supernatural mystery, so I had to check it out. I bought a ticket for opening night as soon as I could, and after finally getting the chance to watch it, I’m happy to report that I definitely made the right choice.

A Haunting in Venice is an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel Hallowe’en Party, and it was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars in the film alongside Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Jude Hill, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarcio, and Michelle Yeoh. When the movie begins, the famous detective Hercule Poirot is retired and living in seclusion. He still gets plenty of offers for new cases, but he turns them all down. However, one day, an old friend named Ariadne Oliver arrives at his doorstep, and she rekindles his passion for his work.

Ariadne is an author of mystery stories, but she’s encountered a mystery even she can’t solve. She recently met Joyce Reynolds, a psychic medium who seems surprisingly legit, and she wants Poirot’s help to expose the secrets behind this woman’s act. She drags Poirot to a seance Joyce is conducting at a supposedly haunted house on Halloween night, and soon after they arrive, they begin to experience strange, potentially supernatural phenomena. Then, sometime after the seance is over, one of the attendees is found dead, and that’s when things really get interesting. The retired Poirot gets back in the game and takes it upon himself to solve the crime, but it’s not entirely clear if the murderer was a living person or one of the ghosts that allegedly haunt the place.

A masked person on a gondola

Right from the get-go, A Haunting in Venice had me totally hooked. For starters, the acting in this film is phenomenal. The entire cast is fantastic, so I bought into every single one of these characters. In fact, they’re all so good I can’t even pick a standout. Everybody in this movie plays their part to perfection, so I had a great time watching them even when there wasn’t anything particularly thrilling happening on screen.

On top of that, A Haunting in Venice also has some really fun horror. Admittedly, this isn’t strictly a horror film, but the Halloween setting and (potentially) supernatural story elements make for a whole bunch of genuinely spooky moments. For example, we get some tried-and-true genre staples like jump scares and atmospheric shots, and the seance ends on a pretty freaky note. It’s not exactly the stuff of nightmares, but it’s fun enough that I, for one, walked away pretty satisfied.

Last but not least, we have to talk about the mystery here. Or, more accurately, the mysteries. See, this movie is actually a double mystery. First, we have the question of who committed the murder, and secondly, there’s the issue of the supernatural. Is there anything truly paranormal going on here, or is it all just smoke and mirrors? Those two mysteries are obviously very intertwined, but I think it’s best if we tackle them separately.

So let’s start with the more mundane one, the question of who committed the murder. On the whole, I enjoyed this mystery, but when Poirot cracked the case, I had some trouble suspending disbelief. The guy puts together an elaborate theory based on just a handful of clues, and lo and behold, he ends up being exactly right. It almost feels supernaturally insightful, so while I enjoyed the journey, the destination didn’t quite do it for me.

Hercule Poirot looking serious

However, when we turn to the supernatural mystery, it’s a completely different story. In my opinion, this is where A Haunting in Venice really shines. I don’t want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say, the film handles this question with deftness and aplomb. It gives us plenty of reasons to think there really is something paranormal going on, but it also leaves the door open to doubt. We have equally good reasons to think there’s a natural explanation for everything we see, so the movie will keep you guessing up until the very end.

Then, when that end comes, it balances belief and skepticism almost perfectly. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, so I can’t get into any specifics. But suffice it to say, there’s an unambiguous ambiguity here (if you watch the film, you’ll know what I mean) that I, for one, absolutely loved, so when the credits began to roll, I walked away a very happy viewer.

And if you get a chance to check out A Haunting in Venice, I think you will too. It’s a satisfying supernatural murder mystery that features some really fun horror and a cast of excellent characters fueled by excellent performances, so although it’s not quite perfect, the good in it far outweighs the bad. In fact, it’s so good I’m interested in checking out Kenneth Branagh’s other Hercule Poirot movies, and coming from a guy who’s not a huge murder mystery fan, that’s high praise indeed.

A Haunting in Venice is playing in theaters right now.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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